The theme of the 2017 STRP Biënnale is ‘Senses and Sensors’, which is all about perception. The way we perceive ourselves and the world around us and the many ways in which technology alters perception and stretches its boundaries.
According to Kevin Kelly’s newest book The Inevitable (2016), interacting is one of twelve inevitable technological developments which shape our future. He distinguishes three different changes: Not only an increase in intimacy, which means technology moves even closer towards us than a phone or wristwatch and will always be switched ‘on’, but also increased immersion: “computation so close that we are inside it”. Lastly, but most importantly, Kelly speaks of a general increase in ‘senses’.
“We will keep adding new sensors and senses to the things we make. Of course, everything will get eyes (vision is almost free), and hearing, but one by one we can add superhuman senses such as GPS location sensing, heat detection, X-ray vision, diverse molecule sensitivity, or smell. These permit our creations to respond to us, to interact with us, and to adapt themselves to our uses. Interactivity, by definition, is two way, so this sensing elevates our interactions with technology.” From: The Inevitable, Kevin Kelly, Viking 2016.
Through these extended senses and sensors, we are able to perceive the up-until-recently invisible. Including both the small – such as the molecular and nano-technological – and the big, amongst which radio waves and the end of the Milky Way. This means that on the one hand, we are registering the deeper layers of reality on a more profound level, and on the other hand, we are surrounding ourselves with realities that are becoming more and more virtual.
STRP Biënnale 2017: Senses and Sensors explores the high touch of the high tech of the contemporary. There is a focus on the expansive amalgamation of the biological and the technological, the physical and the virtual, the analog and the digital, touch and tech, man and machine, and all from a cultural perspective. We bring together artists and designers, coders and hackers, who are fascinated by the complex processes through which we perceive the world, and whose works are filled to the brim with sensory technologies aimed to play on our senses and alter or disrupt our perceptions. Interaction and immersion will be at the center of this. STRP stimulates its audience to expand boundaries and create new experiences, by virtue of imagination.
Naturally, we start our exploratory quest at the human senses. Neurosciences and biotechnology have never been closer to unearthing the complex workings of our senses, and are more than ever able to influence them. In art, as well as technology, there has been a resurgence of interest for the multisensory experience. Besides the ‘biosensors’ we all carry with us (and are ahead of the classical description of the senses by Aristotle: sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste, but also pain, balance, heat and the ability to detect electromagnetic radiation), we are surrounding ourselves with technological sensors on an increasing level: In and our bodies, but also outside of it. All of these sensors are measuring our needs in more refined, complex and attuned ways, and are opening up worlds we haven’t seen before.
STRP Biënnale 2017 focuses on the experience directly behind the perceivable: What it feels like, how it smells, sounds, looks, and tastes. How should and how would we best deal with the omnipresent sensors, the cameras that are always watching, and the all the more subtle delusions, that seep into our lives through smart commodities? How do we maintain government over the choices by which we mandate the plays and manipulations of our senses? How do we, in both literal and figural senses, make more sense of technology?